Colombia peace accord's defeat may be for the best: rebel leader

Bogota (AFP) - The leader of Colombia's FARC said Wednesday it may have been for the best that the peace accord negotiated with the government was rejected in a national referendum.

The victory for the "No" vote in the October 2 referendum was a stunning setback to a nearly four year effort to end Latin Americas last major guerrilla war.

Polls had predicted that the peace agreement would easily pass but turnout was low and many voters were troubled by its lenient treatment of war crimes by FARC leaders.

Londono, known as Timochenko, said the FARC was responding to the loss with a massive effort to educate voters about the agreement and lay their doubts to rest.

"It was almost good that it happened, because it is enabling many doubts to be cleared up, and especially in getting that important sector of the Colombian people that did not vote -- more than 63 percent -- interested in this historic event," he said in an interview with Radio Caracol.

"It is permitting us to correct what we didn't do in developing the agreements, which was a massive education effort," he said.

So confident were they of victory that President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC signed the peace agreement on September 29, days before the referendum.

Despite the thumbs down, both sides have agreed to continue to observe a ceasefire that went into effect August 29 and to discuss fixes to the accord.

"We cannot toss aside the possibility of halting a confrontation that has already lasted 52 years," Londono said. "We are listening to the different sectors, the 'No" as well as the 'Yes.'"

He said government negotiators and the FARC "have been working judiciously to find solutions and think that soon, soon there may be news," he said.

Londono seemed disinclined to making changes to the accord on issues relating to justice and the rebel group's integration into the country's political life.

"It would be out of place to go back and revive a discussion that took us more than a year and a half, which was one of the hardest and most difficult discussions," he said.

Opponents of the accord led by former president Alvaro Uribe, now a senator, insist that as it now stands the accord would result in "total impunity" for guerrillas guilty of atrocities.

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